Hungarian lawmakers approve Finland’s NATO membership bid

The Hungarian parliament in Budapest. (AP Photo/Denes Erdos)
By Thomas Brooke
3 Min Read

The Hungarian parliament approved Finland’s application to join NATO on Monday after months of delay, leaving just Turkey in the way of the Scandinavian country’s bid to join the defense alliance.

Hungarian lawmakers voted overwhelming in support of the motion, by 182 in favor to six against, paving the way for Finland to become the 31st NATO member.

The parliamentary debate on the matter had been pushed back by the Hungarian government for some time with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán revealing earlier this month that some members of his governing Fidesz party had shown reluctance to approve the bid over what they deemed to be unfair criticism by some members of the Finnish government of Hungary’s democratic process.

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Similar criticism has been given by Swedish government officials, a country also seeking to join NATO, and no fixed date has been issued yet by the Hungarian government for a vote on Sweden’s bid.

The matter appeared to have been resolved earlier this month when a Hungarian delegation traveled to both Helsinki and Stockholm for talks with government officials, led by Csaba Hende, Hungary’s deputy parliamentary speaker and a member of the governing Fidesz party.

Following the talks, Hende told reporters of the “warm, friendly and forward-looking” exchange between the countries’ officials and revealed a majority within the Hungarian government supported both nations’ membership bids.

However, a vote on Swedish membership has been kicked down the road indefinitely by Budapest, which appears to want to make Stockholm sweat on the matter; only Hungary and Turkey remain as the current members yet to ratify Sweden’s admission.

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Balázs Orbán, a Hungarian MP and the political director of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, took to social media last week to offer insight into why Hungary was delaying the vote, citing a number of top Swedish government officials who have made somewhat derogatory remarks about Hungarian democracy over the past few years.

He quoted now Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who back on March 3, 2021, called on the European Union to “put pressure on the Hungarian government and to support the increasingly strong opposition.”

Other government officials were quoted as criticizing “Hungary’s xenophobic and nationalist government” and calling for the European Commission to withhold key funding owed to the country.

Turkey is expected to ratify Finnish membership within the next few weeks, but both Ankara and Budapest appear, for the time being at least, to be content in leaving Sweden in limbo.

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